The Lost World of Communism: Socialism in One Family
Documentary series on the fall of the Iron Curtain and its legacy. 1989 marked the collapse of communism in Eastern and Central Europe and an end to a way of life for millions of people. Having lived through extraordinary times, they tell their stories of life behind the Iron Curtain, looking beyond the headlines of spies and surveillance, secret police and political repression, to reveal a rich tapestry of experience.
In the third and last episode of the series, a look at communist Romania and Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu.
Like episode one, the concluding episode in this brilliant documentary series made for uncomfortable yet informative viewing.
Gone are the sanitised history lessons from school and in it’s place haunting images of what life was really like for a handful of people in the Romanian dictatorship during up to the fall of communism.
Banning abortions and implementing a regime of regular pregnancy checks seemed unpallatable, accounts of how some desperate women carried out their own abortions even more so. The policing of banned words by Romanian communist censors at a comedy perforamance may have given slight relief, but the realities of life on peasants forced to leave their homes in the country as villages were demolished, only to be moved into substandard living in the cities left a bitter taste in the mouth. Repatriots were forced to pay rent on properties not suitable for human habitation with money they didn’t have. Little wonder the country revolted against its dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
Documentary makers didn’t hesitate from going further, providing a first-hand account from Captain Ionel Boeru, the paratrooper who brought the captured Ceausescus to the court and remained with them during their trial and execution.
clip3The footage made for grim watching. In their final moments before being executed, did they need to be manhandled in the way they did? Was Elena Ceausescu justified in screaming being tied up was unnecessary? Did we really have to watch their final moments alive ? At this point in time they were two old people and looked it. If they knew they were going to die, was it shameful ghoulishness to record their guilty cries? And … did we need to see their bodies slumped in the courtyard after the firing squad had done their work?
The answer was an emphatic yes from the contributors who appeared in the documentary. Captain Ionel Boeru stood in the courtyard where the dictator and his wife fell to the ground. “He [Nicolae Ceausescu] got exactly what he deserved. I still think that”.
A new regime needed to make it clear they were in charge. Daniela Draghici explained how she had seen the footage on TV in 1989 adding, “we couldn’t get enough of it … to make sure it was really happening, that they were really dead.”
Tioday’s audience needed to see it now, no matter difficult the visual imagery was. This was real history laid bare. Sometimes, history books and Wikipedia entries can’t illustrate the realities of a period in time like video footage can.
That footage – with all it’s gruesome detail – is available on YouTube. Just search for Nicolae Ceausescu and you’ll soon find it. Having watched LWOC it’s obvious why it was so important it was made available on Romanian TV in the early days of the 90s.
But does it fulfill the same need on YouTube as it did back then on Romanian TV? If the final point of the documentary rings true, maybe there is an element of a generation needing the next to be reminded of what a dark time in the country’s history has passed and what musn’t be visited again. It could however be quite ghoulish. The hit-rate certainly gives that impression.
The episode (like the rest of the series) doesn’t pull any punches either. The paratrooper revisits the courtyard where the Ceausescus fell to the ground. Alternatively, go for the slightly more edited version (but no lesson challenging to watch) via the DVD of the Lost World of Communism out on April 13. Education at it’s best.